Doing business in PNG

Something that I have never blogged about, is how doing business especially here in Port Moresby is quite different to how we do it in New Zealand or Australia or wherever.

As a rapidly developing country, PNG is embracing the new, trying to transformational change its thinking, but retain its cultural identity.  In 2011, there was poor internet, disgraceful service delivery (although that still happens today), very few services, and bugger all to do.  It has taken transformational thinking to find opportunities and embrace them.  The PNG LNG project was set to deliver this to PNG, and although social media, and the newspapers abound state that PNG has not reaped the rewards of this project, I see it quite differently.  Without PNG LNG we would not have seen such a rapid change, and certainly a significant amount of Papua New Guineans firstly were able to develop new skills, but also build wealth and emerge as a real force in the economy.

Our Generation Y is different to most.  They want what you get in the USA/Australia/New Zealand, but reflect on the fact that it’s not nessessarily the best thing for them and their family.  They understand that to get ahead, they need to gain education, work hard, and the rewards will come.  They also know – that connections (even more importantly in PNG) gain business and deliver opportunities.  And they need to grab those opportunities and make them theirs.

Life is hard for most here in PNG, even our most affluent citizens are exposed to the hardships of living a subsistence life, and it wasn’t that long ago where most of our senior leaders were just kids trying to scrape together a few Kina for their education.

PNG is all about connections, having the right ones, knowing how it works, developing relationships, connecting with wantoks.  I am constantly reminded of how fine a line it is when someone walks out of a presentation, and everyone notes in in their journal.  It doesn’t matter if there are 10 people or 50, everyone notices.  And especially if you are an expat here, Papua New Guineans expect that you lead by example, be consistent, be honest, and be respectful.  If you get those four simple things right, you develop key relationships.  

There are opportunities to mix with very influential people (who can spot fakeness a mile away), but don’t forget our grassroots people.  You might be surprised when that roughly dressed individual is a representative of a landowner group worth millions of dollars.  And that Ples Man maybe the most interesting person you have met in your lifetime…

It reminds me of when I was in Sales back in the 90’s.  I was at an event, and a young lady walked up to our trade tent. One of our company owners was “on the clock” his turn for inbound enquiries, and he saw this girl walking up to our stand.  She was in typical “teen wear” back in the 90’s and he decided that she was beneath his sales expertise, so he turned to me and said I could deal with her.  It turned out that she was the Executive Assistant to the CEO of a very large multinational.  Needless to say, I sold one of the biggest deals of my career just because I didn’t look down my nose at her and sold her not on what we had, but what I could help her with.

Papua New Guinean’s are some of the quietest people you will meet, they are also the nicest, and they can also get pretty pissed off.  You need to give people the time to talk, take the time to listen, and then make sure you are adding value to the conversation.  Any less and you won’t succeed.  Oh, and it helps being a Kiwi 😉

Come to think of it, really – doing business here in Moresby isn’t actually different to anywhere else.  If you aren’t leading by example, being consistent, being honest and respectful – hopefully you struggle everywhere you go….

Myself and my team work on the following 5 pillars: Honesty, Loyalty, Respect, Trust and Communication.  We arrange this in an X with Communication in the middle.  We talk about those pillars being what we want to be to ourselves, our team, our company and our customers.  We believe that these 5 pillars form the basis for any high performing team, and establish a founding set of principles that we build on.  I wish that everyone coming to PNG could at least start there 🙂

4 thoughts on “Doing business in PNG

  1. Yes, not what you know but who you know. Works in a lot of places. I still miss my friends in PNG. As far as technology such as computer accounts I found the ladies much faster to learn something new than the men, with one or two exceptions. One fellow I was teaching to use an electric calculator was so frustrated with it he decided to kill it by pouring a cup of tea over it. He was most disappointed when my son who was at high school then, stripped it down and cleaned it and got it working again.


  2. I enjoyed this piece the best! Everyone deserves to be treated with respect! Down to the lady who cleans the toilets in an office setting.
    And and never judge a book! Sitting at hubby’s work, guy walks in ripped clothes, flip flops barely hanging off his feet with a bag of full $100 Kina bills. Left me speechless.
    Very enlightening readin your stuff and I’m thoroughly enjoying it. Thank you!

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